Those were the words that topped a full-page advertisement in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Journal and in newspapers across the state. This advertisement explained the pressing need to remove the Mississippi state flag. This flag expresses racial insensitivity, perpetuates negative stereotypes about the place we call home and alienates our young people we hope will continue to count themselves Mississippians.
This declaration was signed by the state’s top economic and business leadership, including companies that employ thousands and pay significant sums of taxes. The signatories of this declaration include top figures associated with local industrial and business interests like B&B Concrete Co., BancorpSouth, Park Heights Restaurant, Renasant Bank, R.W. Reed Co., and Toyota Mississippi.
We have stated our opposition to the flag as it stands today. We applaud the leadership in Jackson working to change it. But we must also take a moment to applaud the elected leadership of Tupelo, including Mayor Jason Shelton and the City Council. Shelton announced on Thursday that the City Council now wants to remove the state flag from municipal property until a new, more unifying banner is adopted.
This is a bold move that echoes the history of Tupelo as a place willing to put aside past points of division in pursuit of a shared future. The council has in the past resisted calls to remove the flag even as a majority said they personally hoped to see a new flag eventually adopted.
Perhaps this position made sense in the past, when a change to the flag seemed beyond reach. Second-guessing previous decisions is not our purpose. But in our current moment, that position was no longer tenable and we commend the city’s leadership for the courage to revise their positions.
The momentum for a new flag is stronger than it has ever been, with even former Gov. Phil Bryant joining the call for change Thursday. However, we haven’t reached our goal yet, and every voice is needed to get us there. The Tupelo City Council’s move only further signals to state leaders that many communities at the local level are simply no longer willing to be associated with this flag. We hope the actions of Tupelo, a historically Republican city will be loudly heard in Jackson.
We call on the leadership of Lee County and others in the region to do the same. Furl the state flag until a new one is adopted. Follow the lead of those who employ our citizens. Just as some votes in the legislature require a super majority of support, a flag should have the support of nearly everyone, not just a bare majority. A flag should represent every Mississippian.
Let’s lead Mississippi.